Suicide bombings are a completely new phenomenon in Syria. During the 10-month long struggle for democracy, the activisits have largely remained peaceful despite the inhumane crackdown by the Assad regime. The recent bombings – the latest of which occurred on Friday when 26 people were killed in the capital – may not be the handiwork of Al-Qaeda, which the regime is quick to blame. Some other forces might be at work.
Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri blamed last year's Damascus bombings on the Assad regime. Hezbollah, on the other hand, believed Americans and the "Zionist" lobby were to blame. The Assad regime blamed the attacks on Al-Qaeda despite the fact that the terrorist group had no previous presence in the country.
The regime might again implicate Al-Qaeda or associated groups in the recent attack, but it has no supporting evidence. The Syrian opposition accused the regime of orchestrating the Dec. 23 attacks. It even talked about producing witnesses in a court of law. The blame game has started again after the recent suicide attack. Given the near-absolute media blockade in Syria, it is difficult to verify these allegations.
Still, it is hard to believe the regime. After killing over 5,000 civilians, the rulers of Syria have little credibility. The timing of the recent bombing could not have been better for them. The Arab League observers are visiting the country and the regime might have thought of influencing their investigations. The observer mission has come under fire from the opposition for being lax with the regime. Headed by the controversial former intelligence chief of Sudan Mustafa al-Dabi, the mission has made little, if any, headway.
Assad does not enjoy the confidence of the Arab Parliament either, which has already called for the end of his regime. Even if the observers continue their job, their integrity has been called into question. The Assad regime is fully aware of the possible outcome. That's why it is possible that the regime might have started a series of sabotage activities – along with the usual repression – to win sympathy.
There is also a remote possibility that the regime is getting help from its Lebanese proxy in this regard. The latter cannot survive without Syrian support and Hassan Nasrallah was quick to offer his full support to the Assad regime.
Then there is Iran. It cannot afford losing its only Arab ally in the Middle East. There were reports of Iranian Revolutionary Guard helping the regime in silencing dissent. The European Union even imposed new sanctions on Iran in this regard. The Iranian government has denied its involvement though the rebels have produced some evidence.
Syria is in a quagmire and only the Assad regime is to blame for it. It has completely repressed its people instead of addressing the genuine demands of the protesters. The ruling junta has lost whatever little legitimacy it might had in the process. Syria can still emerge out of the gloom if Bashar-al-Assad sees the writing on the wall and tell his forces – and their backers – to accept defeat. His days are already over. He better learn some lessons from Qaddafi.
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